Nutritional supplementation with a new food supplement (NEWSUP) could improve cognitive function in young children living in communities with high rates of undernutrition, according to a randomised clinical trial published in the British Medical Journal.
Children aged 15 months to 7 years (n=1059) were divided into two groups: younger and older than 4 years old, and then randomised to receive supervised isocaloric servings of either NEWSUP, a fortified blended food (FBF), or a control meal for five mornings each week during 23 weeks. The primary outcome was working memory, and additional outcomes included haemoglobin concentration, growth, and body composition.
Among children younger than 4, NEWSUP increased working memory compared with the control meal. NEWSUP also increased haemoglobin concentration among children with anaemia compared with the control meal, decreased body mass index z score gain, and increased lean tissue accretion with less fat compared with FBF. Among children aged 4 and older, NEWSUP had no significant effect on working memory or anaemia but increased lean tissue compared with FBF.
These results show that contrary to current understanding, supplementary feeding for 23 weeks could improve executive function, brain health, and nutritional status in vulnerable young children living in low-income countries.